Doctors have been searching far and wide for a “cure” for baldness for decades. Procedures have ranged from the simple hair piece to hair follicle transplants and everything in between. Now, doctors think that they may have stumbled on a long-term, viable cure for a condition that affects many men on a regular basis. Scientists from Columbia University and Durham University believe that the cure lies in creating new hair follicles from human skin cells.
Growth Factor Leads to Natural Regrowth
According to Professor Angela Christiano of Columbia’s Medical Centre, the process began when researchers identified a growth factor that led to the natural regeneration of hair follicles during the traditional healing process of skin that has been damaged. The growth factor is called Fgf9 and was shown to produce more than twice the amount of normal hair follicles in the mice that were used during experimentation. These observations gave the researchers reason to believe that the Fgf9 growth factor could be used to treat male pattern baldness.
Fgf9 traditionally gets produced by T cells, which are highly specialized cells that make up part of the human immune system. Humans have a very small number of these T cells by default, which is what normally causes conditions like male pattern baldness. However, because Fgf9 has now been properly identified, it is speculated that it can be used to stimulate new hair growth.
Another new hair loss technology that might be able to help the battle against baldness involves cloning natural hair cells. Research teams at educational institutions around the world have already successfully cloned hair follicles extracted from humans, though only in very limited amounts at the present time. It is also important to note that clinical trials with humans have yet to be conducted.
These cloned cells have already been successfully inserted into the feet of mice. Doctors have indicated that the stumbling block is finding a way to produce thousands of hairs from a single, natural strand. Presently, a single hair sample only gives rise to one or two clones. During the expansion process, the original hair samples tend to lose their natural ability to give rise to new hair follicles.
The process of cloning hair cells begins with one of the body’s natural processes. Hair follicles in the human body grow from a very specific type of cell called a dermal papillae. Scientists around the world have begun research into cloning these dermal papillae cells. They have already transplanted the cells into the skin of mice. Once the dermal papillae are grouped together in a very specific region of the test subject, the cells encourage hair growth in that area.
One of the biggest benefits of this new procedure is that it makes hair transplantation available to people who only have a limited number of hair follicles to work with. Researchers have indicated that they expect proper human trials on this type of hair loss technology to begin within the next two years.
Scientists are quick to point out that men suffering from natural (also referred to as “conventional”) hair loss won’t be the only ones to benefit. These same procedures could also be applied to women, burn victims, and anyone else who has suffered progressive hair loss for any reason.